Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Firecracker (2004)

I guess you can't accuse Steve Balderson of trying to phone it in. Firecracker, his sophomore effort, is stuffed to burst with heavy symbolism and mirror imagery and stylized color work. It seems like the kind of thing I'd go nuts for, but I dunno. It seems both too mannered and too muddled to be anything more than a curiosity. Example: Mike Patton, musician extraordinaire, plays dual roles as both the cruel overlord of a troupe of freaks and the brutish brother of Jimmy, the protagonist. His acting leaves something to be desired, especially in the former role, but that's not the issue -- there's something about the second role that begs to be touched upon. Through framing and dialogue ("You're just like me"), Balderson implies that David, the second Patton, may not exist at all, that he's merely an extension of the repressed id of Jimmy. This idea would fit in with the film's preoccupation with mirrors and schisms (in addition to Patton, Karen Black plays two roles, as Jimmy's mother and as a singer in the circus with whom Jimmy becomes obsessed); as soon as that angle is introduced, though, it's dropped as Balderson rather disturbingly makes concrete the physical reality of David. Things like this happen a lot in Firecracker (like the puzzling, late-breaking Christ symbolism that manifests in the film's closing twenty minutes), which bespeaks to a lack of rigor in Balderson's ethos. While the spectre of David Lynch hovers over the proceedings (no matter how much Balderson denies it), there's always a method to Lynch's seeming randomness; here, similar material and tactics just come off like a tour through various jejune film-school noodlings and thematics. You can have a character say something like, "Dirt doesn't sound like that anywhere else," but you're just dicking around if it doesn't mean anything.

Grade: C


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